Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbia MO, Des Moines, Durham & Chapel Hill, Fredericksburgh VA, Houston, Los Angeles, Muncie IN, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Richmond VA, San Francisco, Tucson, Twin Cities
I was walking to my car from my apartment to pick up my little sister and I’m halfway across the lawn when I get a “Hey! Hey!” There is a group of guys loitering on the stoop of my neighbor the drug-dealer’s apartment that I haven’t noticed (how do I know he’s a drug dealer? because his girlfriend welcomed me to the neighborhood about a month before this incident by telling me if I needed anything to just knock on their door). I pause, turn and realize it’s not someone I know, turn back, and continue walking. I hear something along the lines of a “How are you doin?” and pause again to say “Fine.” I am going to continue to my car but then they invite me inside the leering doorway “Hey! Come over here! Come in here!” I stammer something about I can’t, I have to pick up my sister, goodbye. Is my Achilles heel the fact that I am pretty much always polite? I’m an introvert, quiet and timid with low self-esteem and know nothing of your website yet. I’ve been harassed before by men, usually in cars, and normally just put my head down and keep walking. But these are my neighbors–or at least friends/clients of them.Your neighbors know where you live, what car you and your mom drive, when your little sister gets off the schoolbus. I am afraid of retribution if I am rude. I just turned 18 a week ago.
So I get to my car and put my purse and cellphone on the passenger seat when one of the men RUNS up to the passenger-side window. He’s in baggy street-clothes and is mentioning me to roll my window down. I consider driving off but I second-guess myself and roll the window about 3/4s of the way to see what he wants. I am not totally paralyzed with fear until he sticks his head and arm INTO MY CAR. I want to drive away but that might decapitate him and then I will be held responsible for murder. I feel claustrophobic. There’s a big, scary, man, late 30s-mid 40s, in my car, and if he wanted to, could reach out and touch my face (which is stuck in an obviously frightened and pained smile, throughout our conversation).
His name is Jafar. I ask him if he is my neighbor. He says yes. He says he’s surprised that I didn’t just drive off (indicating he’s done this to others before, great…). He wants my phone #. I tell him I’m late, I have to get my little sister. But he wants my phone #. He is a fast talker, it’s scary. I tell him I have a boyfriend. I tell him that my boyfriend doesn’t want me giving out my #. He says that that “doesn’t matter.” He wants me to give him my #. I try to make an excuse about not having a phone but it’s right on the passenger seat. He’s staring at me. My brain is cloudy with fear, I don’t know what to do. I put his number in my phone instead. This has worked at parties with guys who I don’t want to bother me anymore. I tell him I’ll call him. He says to call him right then. An obvious “no minutes” excuse slips my mind. I call him and shit, now he has my phone #. His phone # has a strange area code, so I ask him about it (since I know he has my # and knows where I live, I want to get as much info as I can on him). A sketchy answer–that you could pick any area code you wanted at the cell phone store…so he picked an out-of-state one? I ask him again if he is my neighbor. He says no this time, that he’s just visiting. I can feel the blood in my veins. I guess he finally takes pity on me and extracts himself from my window, letting me go.
My heart is racing and I want to puke. I cry on the way to getting my sister. I warn her about the neighbors and park in the back of the building. In order to tell my mother about this I would have to wake her up. My mother works night shifts and needs her sleep. Plus this would make her worry even more about us. I cry and call my boyfriend and my boyfriend tells his mom and his mom says I should call the police. But by now this incident has happened hours ago. Jafar is no longer outside. Plus, what would they do, arrest him? For what? Isn’t it my fault, since I stupidly rolled down my window? I still feel frightened though. I double check all the locks and windows. I have trouble falling asleep the next few nights.
I still have Jafar’s # in my phone, so that I can choose to not answer it if he ever calls. He hasn’t. It’s been about 3 months. I not scared anymore but I still mostly park in the back. I don’t want any attention from my neighbors, ever again.
I question why I didn’t just drive off, leave him in the dirt. (The meek will never inherit the earth.) I question alot of things–how he came to have such audacity to invade my personal space–either his complete and utter ignorance of my frightened eyes and smile, or his selfishness as he brushed my feelings of safety away to make room for his own desires. I question women’s gender role in society, to be submissive and pandering and timid and accepting. I question past wrongs: “Titties!” screamed out a car window, numerous car-honkings and tongue-flickerings from vehicles zooming past, a manager at the fast-food joint I worked at who took a plastic toy into the break room and rubbed it between my 14-year-old breasts.
Many, many questions, and I think I’ve come to a conclusion for one of them. I let Jafar psychologically screw with me because I was afraid that, if I stood up for myself, I would come back and he’d still be there, pissed and waiting for revenge. That I’d walk past him and be yelled at, or rushed at and chased after, or the door to my apartment would be scribbled with obscenities, the window cracked, the lock broken. I don’t know if this is an irrational thought or not, if I am just paranoid. I know it’s the coward’s way out (is this victim-blaming?). It’s not noble to do nothing, but I felt–and feel, remembering this–trapped. I want to stand up for myself, but when it’s so close to home, it’s not just big anonymous you. It’s your family, too. I don’t want anything happening to me or my sister or mother. In another apartment complex my little sister was raped. I don’t want it to happen ever again.
Submitted by Gianna
Editor’s Note: Sometimes staying quiet in the moment is the best, most noble defense that we have. It’s doesn’t mean that we’re weak. Street harassment oftentimes leaves us with very few defenses in the moment, but that’s why holla’ing back is so important. Gianna could of just stood up for herself in front of her harasser, but instead she’s standing up for herself on a much bigger platform: the thousands of you that are reading this right now. What’s more heroic than that?
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